I don't know that I know enough about acting to say whether Newman was a great actor or not. But of the Newman movies I've seen, what I would say is that he made it look easy. Which leads me to believe that it was not. He looked like he was having fun. He looked like a man entirely comfortable in his own skin. He wasn't afraid to play against type, and he wasn't afraid to take on challenging roles. And he seemed like a man of character, a man of whom you could be proud to call friend.
And he was a man not afraid to poke a little fun at himself. Of all the great roles he played, what comes to mind right now is his appearance on the first Letterman show on CBS, when the camera went out into the audience to reveal him sitting there, and after Letterman introduced him, Newman standing up and bellowing, "where the hell are the singing cats!?"
Ironically, just yesterday I read this great profile of Newman which appeared in the September edition of Vanity Fair, by Patricia Bosworth. It is a great profile. I loved this excerpt, which says something about what it was that my mom found so appealing:
The first time I saw Paul Newman he was dancing with Marilyn Monroe. It was the summer of 1959 at a noisy Actors Studio party in New York’s Greenwich Village. I had just passed my audition and was being introduced to everyone as a new member by the Broadway producer Cheryl Crawford, one of the Studio’s heads.
Nobody was paying me much attention—understandably, since they were all watching a barefoot Marilyn, in a skintight black dress, undulate around the living room with Newman, lithe and sinewy in chinos and T-shirt.
They seemed to be dancing with such rapture; they both kept changing rhythms and sometimes they walk-stepped to the beat. They didn’t dance for very long—maybe three minutes—but what a hot, pulsing three minutes it was! They broke apart, Marilyn gave a giggle and a curtsy, and Newman bowed and moved directly past me through the crowd to get a beer.
That’s when I saw that rugged, chiseled, gorgeous face of his close up and breathed in his coolly seductive presence and beheld—I have to say it—those penetrating, unsettling blue, blue eyes.When it comes to a man like Paul Newman, all you can really say is that you just can't believe he's not going to be around.
Update: List making.
Update: A great humanitarian.
Update: Oh my.